Sad tales of GBV survivors in Nairobi's Majengo

A section of Majengo slums in Nairobi.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The informal settlement is infamous for prostitution, with sex workers coming from as far as Tanzania.
  • Those who decided to remain in abusive marriages say children are their reason for staying.

Characterised by mud-walled houses that have iron sheet roofs, though some modern buildings are now coming up, Majengo in Nairobi is one of the areas where crime is rife.

The area is also infamous for prostitution, with sex workers coming from as far as Tanzania.

Domestic violence is also rife in Majengo. Nation.Africa visited the area recently and spoke with several women who have gone through gender-based violence (GBV) in their marriages or relationships; some opting to persevere as others quit their unions.

Those who decided to remain said they do not want to leave their marriages because of their children.

“I had one child when I was married; now we have three. We have been together for over seven years, but I have been through hell,” Rose* said.

She said her husband is a philanderer.

“I used to confront him, but one day he told me that he didn’t want my firstborn daughter to call him daddy; that is the worst thing he has ever told me twice. Sometimes I think of going back home, but who can welcome me with two more children?

"I only tolerate him. There was a day I decided to leave, but the same day, he brought another woman and spent the whole night with her. When I was informed by the neighbours, I came back and confronted him. I no longer have the energy. He has been beating me whenever I confront him,” she said.

Another GBV survivor is Daisy*, 22. She had a two-year-old son from a previous relationship when she got married. Her husband, she said, had had more than five wives in the past.

“I didn’t know that he had married many wives before. He just told me he had married only one and they divorced. He is a Muslim and I am a Christian. I only got to know about the other wives in the fourth month of our marriage.

"At that time, he did not allow me to mingle with other people; I guess he feared that people would tell me he had married many wives before,” she said.

Daisy said her tribulations started when her husband went out one day without leaving her with any money for food.

“When I called him, he neither picked up my calls nor replied to my text messages. He later picked up and said he was in a noisy place, and started abusing me.

"When he came home, it was around 10pm and I had not bought food because I had no money. When I asked him why he was arrogant when I called him, he beat and locked me up in the house. The following day, I ran away to my sister’s place,” she said.

Two weeks later, her husband called her and requested her to go back.

“When I returned, I left my child at my sister’s home. He later told me to go for him. He asked me why I was not conceiving and warned me not to use contraceptives anymore. Now I am pregnant for him.

"I am just persevering because there is nothing I can do. His children, who are over 12 years old, normally come to stay with me when the schools close,” she said.

Gladys* is another GBV victim. She has four children. Like Rose and Daisy, she entered into the marriage with a child from a previous relationship.

“He told me that he loved me and would accept my child. We got married over 10 years ago. He used to treat me well. But he started changing after five years. He would drink and beat me up. He accused me of cheating on him,” she says.

“I was tolerating his abuse until one day when he beat me up, almost killing me. Luckily, when he was trying to strangle me, I screamed and neighbours gathered outside my house, and police officers on patrol saw the crowd and came to my rescue.

"He was forced to open the door and was arrested. I had to move away because I knew he would kill me when he was released."

Gladys said the man has been calling her, seeking a reunion. “He has been sending me some upkeep for the children. If I realise that he has changed, I might give him a chance. But I heard that he married another woman when I left. But I am not sure; he is telling me that is not true,” she said.

*Names changed to protect the identities of the survivors.